I’ll be honest. I’ve never really had a mentor when it comes to writing. I’ve listened to advice from friends, and I’ve attended seminars, but I’ve never had anyone take me under their wing to try and hone my craft.

That doesn’t mean that I’ve not met people along the way who aren’t mentors. It’s quite the opposite. One of the seminars I attended showcased two well-learned authors who were taking time out of their days to teach, to enlighten, and likely along the way, mentor those that they saw something special in. Sadly, last week, one of those men, Aaron Allston, passed away, while at convention.

A few years back, my husband pressed me to spend my Dragon*con weekend in the writing seminars that Aaron Allston and Michael Stackpole offered. I struggled with my confidence in being able to write something other than just errant fanfiction. I doubted that anyone would ever want to read, let alone pay, for anything I created, but my husband believed in me, and so I spent two and a half days in the basement of the Hyatt in downtown Atlanta, listening to these two men, speak, lecture, and teach.

Those seminars were the best money I’ve ever spent at a convention. They taught me about writing, and more importantly, they gave me the insight to look in myself. One of the things they taught for creating real characters is to analyze why. If a character is angry, why are they angry? Are they angry because of outside factors, or is their anger causing these outside factors? It really struck home for me, more than just for creating characters.

I questioned why was I so unhappy with my life because I was miserable most of the time. I had always put it on my weight, my job, and all these things that I felt I could change, but I was still unhappy. I started to look at it the other way though. Maybe all these things that I felt unhappy about were actually a result of the fact that I was just unhappy. Maybe I needed to find a way to fix what made me unhappy to begin with before I could try to lose the weight I hated, or find a job that made me feel more fulfilled.

If it hadn’t been for those seminars, hearing those words, and looking in myself, I probably never would have finally talked to my doctor. I would never have gotten on medicine, never taken the step to find someone to talk to, and I would never have dreamed I was capable of writing a novel on my own. They gave me the keys to take control of my life again, and I am profoundly thankful to them for that.

I might not have known Aaron Allston like so many others have. I might not be able to call him a mentor, but I can thank him – if it is a bit late. Thank you, kind sir, for giving of yourself to those of us who needed your wisdom. I hope you are in a place where you may continue to guide those who need your aid.